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Beef and Ale Casserole with Cheesy Dumplings

Ingredients

Casserole

1 tablespoon plain flour

500g casserole beef cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1 large onion, chopped finely

2-3 carrots, cut into chunks

500mls stout or ale or beer

1 x 400g tin whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar to season

Bouquet garnis – bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary, tied together

Dumplings

125g self-raising flour

69g cold butter

3/4 cup grated cheese

Method
Pre-heat oven to 140 degrees C.

Dust the beef pieces in the flour and place them in a zip lock bag and shake. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole on the stove top.

Fry the beef in small quantities to avoid “stewing” the meat, until brown on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate, add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry the garlic and onion. Add the carrots and lightly brown.

Return the meat to the casserole. Add the stout, ale or beer. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopping as you mix it in. Fill the tomato tin with water and add to the casserole.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and sugar.

Place the bouquet garnis into the casserole.

Cook on a medium heat with lid off for 5 minutes, then transfer the casserole, with lid on, to the pre-heated oven. Cook for about two hours or until beef is very tender. If the beef is still a little tough cook for another half hour.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the dumplings.

Put the flour into a large bowl. Grate the cold butter into the flour. If this is too tricky, just chop it finely. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a splash or two of cold water to help the mixture come together into a dough.

Divide the dough into 12 small balls. Once cooked the balls will swell in size.

Place the dumplings on top of the casserole once the meat is cooked. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the dumplings. Cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the dumplings are golden brown.

Serve at once with a crisp green salad!

You can also refrigerate or freeze portions of the casserole.

Ravioli 2 Ways – Taleggio and Walnuts and Pecorino and Sundried Tomato

Making your own pasta is so satisfying! Here is a recipe for a couple of different kinds of ravioli. You can use my fillings or create some of your own.

Whether you use a pasta machine to roll your pasta, or roll by hand, it doesn’t take too much effort to create a lovely lunch or simple supper!

The basic recipe for the pasta is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. It’s pretty easy to do and the pasta dough is rich and silky. The quantity makes enough for 12 ravioli.

Ingredients

3 large free-range eggs

300g Tipo 00 flour

Method

Put the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs into the bowl. Break up the eggs with a fork in the well.

Gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour, mixing with your fingertips. Mix until you have combined all the eggs into the flour and you have a rough dough.

To make the Taleggio and Walnut Ravioli, I mixed in a small handful of fresh thyme leaves to half of the dough quantity before the kneading stage.

Now knead both kinds of rough dough until each comes together into a smooth ball, and continue kneading until the dough has been really worked well, and is smooth, soft and silky.

Wrap the doughs in cling wrap. Leave in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour, in order to make it easier to roll and shape.

For each kind of ravioli, use the pasta machine to roll the dough so you have 2 thin sheets. It’s important to roll the pasta sheets so they are very thin; I didn’t quite get the sheets thin enough so the pasta was a little thick.

If unsure about how to roll the dough using a pasta machine, there are plenty of “how-to” videos on YouTube.

You can also roll your dough by hand using a rolling pin. Jamie Oliver’s advice is to roll small pieces of dough, one at a time. Try to get them as thin as you can.

Thyme, Taleggio and Walnuts Ravioli

Combine 100 gms or so of taleggio cheese (any soft rind cheese will do) and a dozen or so walnuts chopped.

Ravioli with Pecorino and Sundried Tomato

Combine 100 gms or so of pecorino cheese (parmesan will work too) and a small handful of chopped sundried tomatoes.

For each kind of ravioli, place 6 small spoonfuls of each mixture on one pasta sheet, allowing for a border when you come to cut the ravioli. Moisten the exposed pasta and put the other pasta sheet on top. Press down to divide the sheets into 6 and, making sure you don’t trap any air with the filling, seal the ravioli edges.

Cut pasta into shapes using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife. I dusted the ravioli with a little flour to help them keep their shape as I wasn’t cooking them for an hour or so.

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Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and put the ravioli in. Cook for 5 minutes until al dente.

For a quick sauce, heat a little butter in a frying pan until the butter foams; pour over both kinds of ravioli and serve with additional shaved pecorino.

Middle Eastern Sherbet Berry Balls

These are super easy sweet bites that need no cooking! Make them small as I did for an after dinner treat or bigger and they could double as a light dessert.

I used frozen blackberries, but raspberries or strawberries would be great too.

The “sherbet” part comes from sprinkling them with freeze dried raspberry powder. If you can’t get hold of any, they are equally delicious just rolled in coconut or chopped nuts. Or you could even roll in more chocolate, grated!

Ingredients

40g dark chocolate

100g frozen berries slightly thawed

80g rolled oats

1 tablespoon golden syrup

40g coconut oil

60g shredded coconut

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Freeze dried raspberry powder

Ground pistachios (optional)

Method

Take the chocolate and chop into squares or small pieces. Place in a ziplock bag and bash using a mallet or similar into chocolate rubble.

Place the berries, oats, golden syrup, coconut oil, 40g of the coconut, sesame seeds and chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with cling wrap. Place in the fridge for several hours or until mixture is stiff enough to roll into balls.

Roll large teaspoon portions of mixture into balls. Roll in remaining coconut to lightly coat.

Sprinkle with freeze dried raspberry powder for the sherbet effect.

If using, sprinkle some ground pistachios over as well. It’s nice to do a few this way.

You will need to store these in the fridge. They should keep in an airtight container for a week or more.

Healthy Banana Bread

Everyone loves banana bread! But the banana bread you get in cafes is really banana cake – too sweet and too “cakey” in texture! I picked up this recipe from a television show Hemsley +Hemsley: Healthy and Delicious. The Helmsley sisters cook food that is natural and healthy – grain, gluten and refined sugar free.

This banana bread is made with coconut flour and coconut oil. The sweetness comes from the bananas and some treacle and golden syrup. It does have 3 eggs. The bread cuts into 12 slices easily, so I think that distributes the extra calories quite well!

It’s a much healthier bread than the usual sweet and cake-like cafe offerings.

As usual I made my version with a few tweaks. You could really add anything you like – nuts or seeds would be great, and honey would be a great sweetener too. The treacle in my version gave a lovely, malty flavour and rich dark colour.

And it’s a throw-in-the-food-processor recipe so it takes no time to prepare.

One more thing – it keeps forever! It doesn’t dry out, and keeps really moist.


Ingredients

350g or 3 medium size bananas, mashed

60g  coconut flour

1 /2 tbs cinnamon

1 pinch salt

3 free-range eggs

50g coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

1 tbs apple cider vineagr

1/2 tbs treacle

1/2 tbs golden syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients (except the golden syrup) into a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Spoon into the prepared tin. Drizzle over the golden syrup onto the top of the mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before turning out of the tin.

I served my banana bread with cashew butter and fresh figs. The bread is quite sweet, so the cashew butter works well. Peanut, or any nut butter would be fine.

Roasted Pumpkin Dhal

I am trying to eat more protein and I think it’s good to eat more protein from sources other than meat. So I got inspired on the weekend to go down the lentil path. I’m not that keen on lentils, but lentils in the form of dhal takes them from bland to spicy and very tasty!

The idea for this dish came from watching the hilarious series from Jamie Oliver “Keep Cooking and Carry On”. Jamie made the series in lockdown last year and it’s hilarious as most of the episodes are Jamie cooking at home, filmed on an iPhone with his kids helping (or hindering) the process!

One dish from the show was an eggplant (aubergine) dhal. So I got motivated to make my own version of a tasty dhal dish.

The recipe is pretty easy as I’m using bought curry simmer sauce, so no need for extensive ingredients. It’s a one pot dish too, as you roast the vegetables and then cook the lentils in the one pot or dish. Roasting the veggies has the advantage of giving the dhal a nutty, caramelised flavour.

And my genius if slightly unconventional accompaniments of hard boiled eggs, yoghurt and chutney really make the dish!

Ingredients

Approximately 2 cups cut pumpkin – about half of a small pumpkin or butternut squash

2 onions

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup of any good curry simmer sauce or 3 tablespoons of curry paste*

250g any lentils (I used 200g red lentils with 50g split peas as that’s all I had)

1 litre boiling water

400g tin whole tomatoes – cherry tomatoes if you can get them

A handful of fresh cherry tomatoes

2 hard boiled eggs

Chilli flakes

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon mango chutney

Basil leaves or any other herb

*Any sauce or paste is ok – Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, Korma, Tikka Masala or Tandoori.

Method

Peel the pumpkin and chop into small chunks. Peel the onions and roughly chop. Put the pumpkin and onions into a heavy based pan. Make sure this pan can be used on the stove top and that it has a lid.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Pour over the oil and the simmer sauce (or curry paste). Roughly mix everything together.

Put the pan into the oven lid off and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft and the onions are caramelised.

Remove from the oven. Take about half of the roast pumpkin and onions and put into another dish and cover with foil.

Stir the lentils and roast veggies into the boiling water. Add the tinned tomatoes.

Put the pan onto the stovetop on a medium heat. Add the lentils to the pan and the litre of boiling water. Note: if you used curry paste rather than simmer sauce you will need to add another 250 mls or so of water.

Turn the heat to low and simmer the mixture with the lid on, until the lentils are soft and the dhal has thickened, about an hour. It’s hard to say exact how long – you will know when the lentils are cooked and really soft. Add a bit more water if the dhal is too thick or it’s sticking to the pan.

Once the dhal is cooked, remove from the heat. Check the seasoning. If you want it hotter, you could add some chilli flakes or even a spoonful of curry taste.

Stir in the rest of the roasted pumpkin and onion that you put aside. Or you can just place them on top of the dhal without stirring them in.

Serve as is or you could add the extras I used – fresh cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs scattered with chilli flakes, some Greek yoghurt and mango chutney. Scatter the dhal with basil leaves or any other fresh herb you have on hand.

Blackberry and Apple Muffins

These little bakes are super delicious, Moist and tender and full of flavour. I do recommend making them as they are super easy and the mixture can be stored ahead and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.

You can vary the fillings and flavours very easily as I regularly do, to create a new bake. The only ingredient you need to include is a grated apple or pear as this gives the muffins their moist texture.

I like a teaspoon of ground ginger in these muffins but you could substitute cinnamon or another spice according to taste.

This recipe gives enough mixture to make 6 medium to large muffins. Double it for 12.

I made these muffins in a quirky Silverwood muffin tin, available pretty easily in the UK, but if you’re in Australia like me, you will need to go to Blackwood Lane in Melbourne to buy them. An ordinary muffin tin works just as well.

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

140g raw sugar

100g apples, unpeeled and grated

75ml vegetable oil

150g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

A handful of blackberries for the mixture plus extra for decoration

Glaze

2 or 3 puréed blackberries with a squeeze of lime or lemon and enough icing sugar to make a glaze.

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees fan-forced 180 degrees non fan-forced.

Using an electric mixer and the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs until they are foamy. Then slowly pour in the sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size.

Still using the whisk, mix in the grated apple and oil. With a metal spoon or spatula, gently fold in the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away, but leaving it in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight gives the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture.

When ready to bake, grease your muffin tin. If you want to use a fancy tin, my advice is to butter and flour very carefully to avoid the muffins sticking. I actually butter the molds, stick in the fridge for 10 minutes, then butter again, and finally flour.

If using a traditional muffin tin, after greasing you can line the holes with large squares of baking paper to encase the muffins.

Spoon in the muffin mixture to fill the cavities 3/4 full.

At this point pop several blackberries into each muffin, mixing in carefully. The blackberries are put in last to stop them breaking up too much.

Place the muffins in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, inserting a skewer into the muffins to check if they are cooked.

Remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Carefully remove from the tin, leaving the baking paper case on, if using, and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the blackberry glaze, purée the blackberries and put through a sieve to remove the seeds. Mix with the lime or lemon juice and enough icing sugar to achieve the desired consistency.

Spoon the blackberry glaze over the muffins, allowing a little to drop down the sides.

Optional: a blackberry placed on top of each muffin for decoration.

Cinnamon Sugar Pastry Scrolls

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I’ve been baking with yeast or sourdough for so long that I’m in danger of forgetting that there are some pretty nice pastries to be made just using good old all purpose flour!

So here’s a recipe from the vault for deliciously soft and tender scrolls, with a cinnamon sugar filling, made with plain or all purpose flour. You can knock these up in half an hour – and doesn’t that beat all that time spent proving a batch of yeast based cinnamon pastries!

Of course you can fill these with a whole lot of different toppings too – dried fruit, chocolate or chopped nuts to name a few.

Ingredients

Dough
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/4 cups thickened cream

Filling
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 cup caster sugar and 1/8 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Icing
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Extra caster sugar and cinnamon for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C non fan forced, 160 degrees C fan forced.
Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the cream until just combined. If the dough is a little dry, add a little more cream carefully.

Lightly flour a board and turn the mixture onto the board.
Knead the dough on the floured surface until only just incorporated.
Roll the dough into a large rectangle.

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Combine sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the dough rectangle with melted butter.
Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough.

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Roll the dough from the longest side to form a scroll. Cut into 10 fat slices or 16 smaller slices slices.

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Place slices onto a baking tray.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden (the bigger the slices, the longer the cooking time).
Place on a wire rack and dust with the additional cinnamon and sugar while still hot.
Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar and the milk in a small bowl.
Pour the icing over the scrolls.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep for a couple of days but best eaten on the day or soon thereafter!

Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

Cakes where orange or lemon are predominant flavours are an important part of a baker’s repertoire. They make wonderful afternoon tea cakes and can be dressed up for dessert.

This is a lovely cake from Middle Eastern inspired cook Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m revisiting it in autumn in Sydney, as we are enjoying long warm days, perfect for cake and coffee in the sunshine!

The cake itself is flavoured with rosemary, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake.

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

Here is Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Ingredients

Cake
30g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240g plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130g sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Crystallised Rosemary
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size
1 free range egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Orange Icing
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150g sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary. Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Generously grease a 23cm bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, caster sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for one minute.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

To make the icing, in a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

ANZAC Biscuits 2021

I love seasonal baking, and 25 April is ANZAC Day. ANZAC biscuits are traditionally baked and eaten around this date.

This day commemorates the contribution of Australian and New Zealand soldiers to World War One.

I’m quite pleased with this year’s biscuits. I have tweaked my normal recipe, which is based on the “original” ANZAC recipe from The Cook and the Curator, the cooking blog of Sydney Living Museums. I picked up a few good tips from Cloudy Kitchen’s ANZAC biscuit recipe.

The first of these tips was to brown the butter, to give more depth of flavour. To make the brown butter, you need to start of with a slightly bigger quantity of butter, to make up for the loss of volume when browning. I therefore adjusted the butter up in the ingredients section.

The second tip was to cook the biscuits at a lower temperature than I would normally use – this stops the biscuits spreading too much. The result is a plump biscuit, crisp around the edges and squidgy in the middle!

The third tip was to cook both trays at the same time in the oven, as the mixture changes consistency when left for a while before cooking.

So here are my “revised” 2021 ANZAC biscuits!

Ingredients

165g salted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Beef and Tomato Handpies + Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

I made these originally as pasties, but really, they are little pastries that you fit in your hand. So handpies they have become!

They’re pretty easy to make, using bought puff pastry. But you really need to get the all butter pastry.

Beef and Tomato Handpies

The beef version uses a beef casserole I cook a lot. It’s easy too, but does require a long slow cooking time. The sundried tomato and feta version is simple as the filling doesn’t need cooking.

The filling was some slow cooked beef cheeks, cooked in Pedro Ximinez sherry. I added in a chopped fresh tomato and and handful of chopped sundried tomatoes. I reduced the tomatoes with the cooked beef until the mixture was thick enough to be used a pastie filling.

Recipe for the beef cheeks follows.

For a dozen pies, you would need about 1/3 of the recipe quantity. The rest is great served with mashed potato or pasta, root vegetables or green salad.

Ingredients 

1.5 kg  beef cheeks
125 ml  olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlicky bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 ml  Pedro Ximenez sherry or any other sweet sherry
500 ml  red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C or even lower if your oven is hot (like mine).

Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml water.

Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks.  Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart.

The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced.

Increase the oven to 190 degrees C. Take 3 puff pastry sheets, and using a plate as a template, cut out 12  20cm circles; you may have to gather up the trimmings and re-roll them to get all your circles. Don’t worry if you don’t get 12; just get as many as you can from the pastry sheets.

Spoon the stew on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp well to seal.

Place the pies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Eat the pies warm or cold.

Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

Simply chopped sundried tomatoes and crumble some soft feta. Add a sprinkling of fresh herbs like coriander or thyme to taste.

The quantities are up to you – I used 6 sundried tomatoes and 3 small pieces of feta to make 2 large pasties from 1 pastry sheet.

Spoon the filling on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp to seal. These pies may open during cooking, but as the filling isn’t liquid, they stay intact.

Place the handpies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. These ones are best eaten cold.

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